Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yes votes for SMART, Detroit Library, and Wayne RESA millages

I mentioned the SMART millage renewal in Report on the 2014 Clawson 4th of July parade.
I saw a truck promoting the SMART (suburban bus system) millage renewal, which will be on the ballot in August.  I would gladly volunteer for that cause.  However, when I asked if they had any candy, the answer was no.  I told them that they didn't need me, but they would have my yes vote for the renewal.
I'm not the only one who has that opinion.  The Detroit Free Press wrote an Endorsement: Voting for SMART millage is the smart move.
On Aug. 5, voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties will be asked to approve a tax increase to support the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) bus system.

SMART is an integral piece of the regional transit system, and it’s been hard-hit by the decline in property values — and resulting loss of tax revenue, which accounts for about 35% of its budget. Its 590-vehicle fleet is outdated, and needs replacing. Because the system can’t operate with a deficit, if voters don’t approve the millage, operations will cease, SMART general manager John Hertel says.

We urge tri-county residents to vote YES on this millage.
I'm glad one of the major Detroit dailies agrees with me.

Follow over the jump for the Free Press's endorsements of two other millages.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First phase of M1 light rail construction began yesterday

I concluded Red Wings to join Tigers and Lions in Detroit's Foxtown plus M1 update with commentary on a month-old story.
MLive reported last month Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit to close as construction of M1 Rail begins.
DETROIT, MI – Construction of the M1 Rail streetcar line officially begins Monday, July 28, and traffic in the lower Woodward Avenue area should get pretty hairy.

M1 Rail representatives said in an email Friday that work on the 3.3-mile lightrail line will close Woodward from Adams to Campus Martius Park for about 120 days.
As I was driving along Woodward downtown, I noticed how narrow the street was and wondered how the light rail line would be installed while keeping the street open.  The answer is that the street will be closed.  I'm glad I've been warned.
Work began as scheduled yesterday, as WXYZ reports in M-1 RAIL construction begins.

That was a useful video to watch, if only for the year when the previous light rail system was removed.  I'm also heartened by all the optimistic projections of economic development downtown.  It may not help as much as Penske and Duggan say, but overall the effects will be positive.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Storm damage in Macomb County and elsewhere

My footnote to A fifth drop in gas prices read "There was a big storm this afternoon, which downed tree limbs and snapped power lines all over the area.  When WXYZ has video, I'll post it."  The station finally put up one video about storm damage, and it found something more spectacular than downed tree branches and power lines--lightning strikes church and starts a fire.

As for the power outages, the Detroit Free Press has the summary in Utility crews work to restore power after severe storms hit Michigan.
Homes were darkened and fallen trees and branches littered neighborhood streets Monday morning after a series of severe thunderstorms hit Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and knocked out power to more than 210,000 homes and businesses.

DTE Energy Co. said Monday about 165,000 of its about 186,000 customers that lost power following storms Sunday were still without service. The utility also said in a news release that about 1,000 power lines were down. DTE said most customers should have power by late Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the state, 32,000 Consumers Energy customers were without power Monday morning. The most affected area was Genesee County, where 5,700 were without power. About 5,000 were without power in Livingston County.
My wife and I were lucky.  We only lost power long enough to cause the lights to flicker and our computers to restart.  Even so, the tornado sirens went off and we and our dogs spent most of the late afternoon and early evening in the basement office where our computers are.  Only after the storms passed did we venture upstairs.  When we looked outside, there were lots of downed branches ranging from 2 to 15 feet long, but no other damage on the property that we could see.  I'm sure I'll be cleaning up those branches tomorrow.  Today, I have to go to work.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A fifth drop in gas prices

The cat is still doing the limbo.  Since I posted Gas falls a fourth time, the corner station has dropped its price twice in two days.  Yesterday, it was at $3.39.  Today, it along with the one station down the street that still had power,* was selling regular for $3.38.  The local stations are now inside the $3.35-$3.39 price range at which I expected to find first price resistance--so much for that; the neighborhood price is already below $3.39--and then a floor--only four cents to go!

Even though I quoted a Wall Street Journal article reporting that the wholesale prices of commodities that lead to increases in prices at the pump were up slightly, the retail prices here are still going down.  Since it's Sunday, there should be no new price news on that front, but there is still GasBuddy.  The national average is still dropping, heading from last week's $3.53 down past $3.52 and heading to $3.51.  The Detroit average is below it at just above $3.46, but is showing signs of slowing its decrease, as it hit $3.47 yesterday followed by a flattening out of the curve of a steady descent of 42 cents in 30 days.  Given the shape of the curve, a bottom of $3.35 for the neighborhood stations looks good, as that would be a dime cheaper than the metro average, the normal spread.

One last observation on the gas prices--they are 11 cents lower than last year at this time.  Again, I'd post Farnsworth, but the kitty doing the limbo has priority.

*There was a big storm this afternoon, which downed tree limbs and snapped power lines all over the area.  When WXYZ has video, I'll post it. article about Free Press and News endorsements

Debbie Dingell earned endorsements this week from three Detroit newspapers, the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Michigan Chronicle.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Detroit News and Free Press endorse congressional candidates in 2014 primaries
Both the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press issued their endorsements for congressional candidates in the August 5 primary this weekend, the News on Saturday and the Free Press on Sunday.

Both metropolitan dailies endorsed Debbie Dingell for the Democratic nomination to succeed her husband John in the Twelfth Congressional District, which includes Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas of eastern Washtenaw County as well as western and southern Wayne County.

The Free Press endorsed incumbent Tim Walberg for the Republican nomination in the Seventh Congressional District, which encompasses western and northern Washtenaw County along with a wide swath of southern Michigan extending from Monroe County to Branch County, as well as the counties of Jackson and Eaton.  The News made no recommendation in the contest.

Both papers also issued endorsements in the Eighth Congressional District, which borders Washtenaw County to the north, and Eleventh Congressional District, which adjoins Washtenaw County to the east.  Each district features intensely contested primaries for both major parties' nominations.
More details about the endorsements, including quotes from both papers' editorials and a response from Debbie Dingell to an earlier endorsement from the Michigan Chronicle and a video report of Dingell's announcement of her candidacy, at the link.

Here are two items that amused me.  The News endorsed Terry Bowman over Stephen Farkas in the Republican primary for the Twelfth Congressional District, even though Farkas is not on the ballot, having withdrawn from the race.  Also, the Free Press gave a very lukewarm endorsement for Walberg, calling his record "lackluster" but then saying he was still better than his opponent.  I bet they endorse Byrnes in the general.  I know I will.


In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.
For my Sunday collapse-and-decline-related entertainment entry, I feature "Snowpiercer," which my wife and I watched yesterday.  We quite enjoyed it.  The movie explores most of the themes I examine here--climate, sustainability, population, food, technology, and inequality.  It also warns that sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease.

As for a more thorough review, I don't have one of my own.  However, I ran across a very complete one in the first part of Books So Bad They're Good: Objectifying the Apocalypse by Ellid on Daily Kos last week.  Warning--spoilers ahoy!

Saturday, July 26, 2014 article on wolf hunt and minimum wage proposals

It's time to follow up on Petitions submitted for minimum wage, wolf hunt, which I quoted in article on petitions submitted for ballot initiatives.

The same day a initiative to raise Michigan's minimum wage was turned down, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) held a news conference to call for Congress to raise the national minimum wage.
Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Board of State Canvassers approves wolf hunt, denies minimum wage
On Thursday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers decided the fates of two ballot initiatives that had their petitions submitted at the end of May.

The Board unanimously approved the initiative from Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management that would allow the wolf hunt to continue along with funding measures to combat Asian Carp and continue offering free hunting and fishing licenses to active-duty members of the armed services.

They also denied the initiative from Raise Michigan to put a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to vote for an increase in the state's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour on a 3-1 bipartisan vote, citing not enough valid signatures.
Much more about both decisions and the reaction to them at the link.

As I told the readers of Join the Coffee Party Michigan, it's possible that neither will be on the ballot, as the minimum wage measure was turned down, while the pro-hunting measure may be voted into law by the state legislature, bypassing the voters entirely.  Welcome to life in a republic, not a democracy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gas falls a fourth time

When I wrote "it's too soon to tell if a plateau has been reached from just observing the local stations; the last drop only happened today" and "trends indicate continued lower prices," in Gas falls three times in one week, I was more right than I expected.  After still selling regular at $3.44 early this afternoon, the three stations down the street dropped their price another notch to $3.41 by late afternoon, while the corner station held steady at $3.44.  The neighborhood price is now a full dime below the metro Detroit average of $3.51, which is precisely the discount the local stations seem to target.  I should have figured that into my prediction.

As for hitting a price floor of $3.35-$3.39, it's getting close.  Also, The Wall Street Journal reports that wholesale conditions are not as favorable for continued price drops as they were yesterday: Brent Oil Prices Rise to Two-Week High.
Global oil prices rose to a two-week high on Friday as investors prepared for more market-roiling headlines from Ukraine and the Middle East over the weekend.

Brent crude for September delivery rose $1.32, or 1.2%, at $108.39 a barrel, the highest closing price since July 10 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was the largest one-day gain for the global benchmark since June 12.

Light, sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended almost flat, up 2 cents to $102.09 a barrel.
Front-month August reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, gained 2.85 cents, or 1%, to $2.8653 a gallon.
Looks like the fear premium is returning, however weakly.  Let's see if it gains strength on Monday.

In the meantime, gas is still 21 to 24 cents cheaper than at this time last year.  If it weren't for the dramatic price drop followed by hitting and bouncing off a price floor, I'd post Professor Farnsworth instead of the cat doing the limbo.

Gas falls three times in one week

Here's where prices stood when I posted Prediction salvaged with bonus fuel economy and emissions news on Thursday evening of last week.
I managed to save my best prediction from Gas falls faster and farther than I expected.
[W]hile the third station down the street did match the rest at $3.65, the corner station did not.  Yesterday morning, it dropped to $3.67, but by yesterday evening, it had lowered its price to $3.59.  It passed right by $3.65.  Now, I can still save my prediction if the three stations down the street are also at $3.59, so at least it will have matched them, but I haven't checked yet.
I drove by the stations and they are all at $3.59, so my call that the corner station will match them by the end of the week came true despite not getting the price right.
Since then, the neighborhood price has fallen three times and now stands at $3.44.  That's much farther and faster than I expected when I wrote "the current conditions may be favorable for at least one more drop, possibly as early as next week, before they plateau or rise slightly."  Good thing I conditioned my prediction with "at least."  As for the decline stalling out, I would expect it at these price levels for this time of the year, but it's too soon to tell for reasons I'll explain over the jump.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Red Wings to join Tigers and Lions in Detroit's Foxtown plus M1 update

When I drove downtown for Netroots Nation and the water protests, I realized that I had never seen Detroit so full of life.*  A large part of that were the crowds of Tiger Fans crossing Woodward and streaming into Comerica Park both nights.  It looks like Red Wings fans in the winter will join Tigers fans in the spring and summer and Lions fans in the fall, turning the area into a year-round sports attraction.  WXYZ has the video report in Closer look into new sports and entertainment district plans.

Crain's Detroit Business has more in Detroit Rink City: Ilitches' grand plan to supersize the entertainment district.
A gargantuan 3-year plan: 5 new neighborhoods, a $450 million hockey arena and an accelerated timeline to complete it all

A DRAMATIC TRANSFORMATION OF THE HEART OF DETROIT will begin in September, when the Ilitch family breaks ground on the construction of a $450 million Detroit Red Wings arena concurrently with another $200 million in apartments, restaurants, office buildings, parks and shops over 45 blocks. This is the city’s entertainment district, super-sized.

Planned is a gargantuan three-year construction project to create five new neighborhoods intended to stitch together the city where it’s divided by the trench-like Fisher Freeway underneath Woodward Avenue.

The 650,000-square-foot hockey and events center and the new neighborhoods — including hundreds of apartments to be built both outside Comerica Park and the new hockey arena — are scheduled to be ready by summer 2017.
I'd noticed the large vacant expanses between Foxtown and Midtown and wondered what would become of them.  Now I know.  I'm looking forward to seeing it completed, just in time for the M1 light rail to serve it.**